A Guide for Technical Trainers

Before we delve into the ins and outs to having the best training session ever, the following skills are essential in preparation to teach in any training environment. You must be articulate, a quick-learner, knowledgeable, and outgoing.

In preparation for a Training Session, it is very important that you study the content (even if you are well-experienced) for a total of two – four hours the evening before. This will keep the content fresh in memory. An hour should be spent scanning the student and/or instructor’s guide and an hour should involve hands-on studying. Also, jot down any questions your students may ask. Perform some of the actual questions that the students will be solving. Create 10-15 sample questions of your own and hands-on problems to fill in any gaps or text-learning. This will be a helpful valid tool in subsequent to what and how greatly the class is learning or not learning as a whole. Come training day, you will be well-versed on the content and well-prepared for any questions that may spring up on you. Prepare a training session schedule. Assign reasonable schedule of events or tasks which will channel valuable skills for students and efficient training for instructors.

On the day of the training session, be sure to arrive at the training room 45-60 minutes before the session begins. Upon entering, you will need to make sure all of the training materials (manuals, computers, etc.) are available and that all equipment is operational. If you are short-handed in materials or equipment is not functioning correctly then you will have ample time to get assistance. I’ve had to experience some of these concerns in having little or no training materials, not enough computer equipment for the students, and having machines that are not functioning properly, if not at all. Any of these issues will bring about a very long & tedious training session for you and the students.

As the trainees are trickling in, be sure to acknowledge their entrance with a “good morning” or a nod. This is important because it builds trust and rapport. Awareness of the attendees will prompt input, questions, or both, depending on the students’ skill set. Once the session has begun, be sure to give a brief introduction of yourself; where you live, where you work, and a short description of your skills and experience. Communicate a schedule for the training session. (e.g. how much time will be spent in each chapter, break times) Stress how important it is that they convey to you any questions or concerns they may have about not only the content, but about the training session as a whole. Again, it is very important to build trust.

Relay your expectations for the students in a training session as a team. The general practice is to set expectations high. Expect high expectations and the students will work hard to achieve them. Ask each student to write down any issues they would like to address in the classroom in regards to their functionality and the scope of the training so that those issues might be addressed during sessions. While examining similar training content, these specific issues can also be addressed. By adjusting the training to the students use in the workplace, it encourages more interest and involvement in the training room.

And while students are writing their issues, be sure to ask for introductions from them; names, functionality or positions within the company, and their knowledge of the software: beginners, intermediate, or advanced. Make a note, of their software experience because at this point, you should pair together a beginner user with an intermediate or advanced user. The advanced user tends to be very helpful to a less-experienced user and the beginner tends to be more comfortable asking a more experienced co-worker for assistance. Employing students will foster participation in learning. In my own experience, distributing ideas and answering others’ reactions hones ideas and develops comprehension. This introduction period should only be 15-20 minutes.

If there is reading involved and that is a big IF, ask for volunteers. This will keep the students involved and the session will be just that, a session, and not a classroom. Not only do students have the desire to learn, the need to be motivated and amused as well. The more they are included in the training, the more amused they will be. For computer training purposes, hands-on training involves every student and reading should only be limited to the introduction of the problem or question at hand.

Keep training to 15 minute intervals. Meaning, teach for 15 minutes and involve the students at this time by asking questions or playing a “Training Game”. If the training is complicated or drawn out, the students will be overwhelmed and unwilling to listen to instruction. Allow the students to unwind. The 5-10 minute “break” will allow for conversation and movement during sessions. During this time, if the students seem “detached”, ask if there is a problem that needs to be recapped. Also, during the last 15-20 minutes before lunch and before the session ends, ask a student to give a synopsis of what they’ve learned in that half and to give one hands-on example of what they’ve learned. When I first started training it was difficult to get a hold of a volunteer, but when I offered a prize, a student almost always volunteers. Depending on where the training session was being held, I would award a $5.00 McDonald’s gift certificate for each volunteer. You would be surprised about how much of an impact of spending $10.00 will have on a training session. Be creative!

Lastly, be sure to adhere to the following objectives: develop mutual exchange and involvement among students, emphasize time on the training, give prompt feedback, promote contact between you and the students, promote dynamic wisdom, share your expectations of the training session, value distinct skills and learning curves. There are two important factors to keep in mind when training; Always be you and smile throughout the session. The students are human and require a human to teach them. Human-interaction, even through technical training, goes a long way. Enjoy!